History of the Foundation

Our History

We’ve been part of the community since 1928, when ten innovative and forward-thinking business leaders established the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation to encourage “public spirited citizens” to invest in the future of Oshkosh. Nearly 100 years later, we are sustaining and expanding our founders’ vision to create a legacy that will benefit Winnebago County, Waushara County, Green Lake County and Ripon, now and for generations to come.  It is with great pride that we help our donors turn their charitable investments into projects that add energy and vitality to our community.

We are the stewards of the community’s endowment – a reserve of charitable dollars that we grow through investment and attracting new gifts from generous donors of all means and walks of life.

An excerpt from the Daily Northwestern, from Saturday Evening February 11th, 1928

Institution of public trust is formed after careful study

After nearly two years of careful study and preparation, announcement is made for the first time today of a new institution of public trust that has been created in this city, which promises to play an important part in the future improvements and betterment of Oshkosh and its citizens.

This institution is to be known as the Oshkosh Foundation, established and designed to ensure the proper management of trust funds that may from time to time, be bequeathed to the city for charitable purposes.

Originating from a desire on the part of a number of wealthy and public spirited citizens to leave valuable property to the city of Oshkosh with assurance that it will be wisely and efficiently administered, the Foundation, it is expected, will also serve to encourage other contributions of a similar nature.

Examples of projects in recent history can be seen everywhere throughout the Oshkosh Area ranging from the Leach Amphitheater to the Fox River Bridge Lighting (pictured), Pollock Pool, and so much more.

As time went on and the community around us developed, the Oshkosh Foundation transitioned from a private foundation to a community foundation in 1992. Six years later, in 1998, the Women’s Fund was created, followed by the Green Lake County / Ripon Community Foundation in 2000, and the Winneconne Area Community Foundation in 2013.

At the turn of the century the Oshkosh Community Foundation expanded the boundaries of its service area to include all of Winnebago, Waushara, and Green Lake Counties, and the city of Ripon. As a result of this, in 2000 our name changed to the the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation to better reflect the communities that we serve.


January 1928: “Oshkosh Foundation” established by Declaration of Trust by First Trust Co. in Oshkosh, formally adopted on February 14, 1928.

1938 — The first bequest was made in the amount of $500. (What is a bequest? Find out here: smartasset.com/estate-planning/what-is-a-bequest)

1953 — The first grant was awarded to the Oshkosh Public Museum for the purchase of original contemporary American paintings.

1956 — The first scholarship fund was created, from the will Mary E. Forbes.

1956 — The first scholarships were awarded, in the amount of $300 each, to four students.

1957 —$8,000 was granted to support construction of Pollock Community Water Park, which at the time was called Pollock Pool.

1961 — $162,000 was granted to the construction of a 1,500-seat High School Civic Auditorium, now known as Alberta Kimball Auditorium.

1964 — $16,000 was granted to Bethel Home for its capital campaign.

1964 — $40,000 was granted to the Mercy Hospital Expansion Program.

1965 — A $400,000 bequest was received from the estate of William M. Bray.

1978 — $40,000 was granted to the Paine Art Center and Gardens Arboretum for capital improvements (pictured at right).

1979 —$30,000 was granted to the Oshkosh YMCA for its capital expansion program of the original (Downtown) YMCA.

1980 — $10,000 was granted for the construction of Father Carr’s Place 2B .

1981 — $30,000 was granted to the The Grand Opera House Restoration Project, now known as The Grand Oshkosh.

1981 — $50,000 was granted to the Oshkosh Public Museum for an addition to its building.

1982 — $150,000 was granted to EAA – The Spirit of Aviation Experimental Air Craft Association toward the EAA Museum building.

1982 — $25,000 was granted to The Salvation Army Oshkosh for repair and reconstruction of its building.

1985 — $15,000 was granted to the Oshkosh YMCA for its capital campaign of the original Downtown building.

1985 — $10,000 was granted to Goodwill Industries for capital expansion needs.

October 1985 — The Oshkosh Foundation (former name) acknowledged the passing of Carl Steiger, who had served on the Board of Directors since 1957, including roughly 20 years as its president.

1989 — An unrestricted bequest in the amount of $1,000,000 was received from the estate of E. B. Williams (pictured at right).

1990 — $25,000 was granted to Fox Valley Technical College to build a new aviation center.

1991 — $30,000 was granted to former Mercy Medical Center for its Open Heart Surgery Intensive Care Unit.

1991 — $30,000 was granted to Regional Domestic Abuse Services to purchase a new shelter.

1991 —$100,000 was granted to construct the Oshkosh Seniors Center.

1991 —$15,000 was granted to Paine Art Center and Gardens Arboretum for remodeling of the Paine Carriage House.

January 1992 — Andrew Swinney was hired as the first executive director and Foundation staff member.

1992 — The Oshkosh Foundation changes from a private foundation to a public Community Foundation.

1993 —$25,000 was granted to the Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh capital campaign.

1995 – The Hiwela Youth Fund was established with $800,000 proceeds from sale of Camp Hiwela (pictured at right).

1995 – $50,000 was granted to Regional Domestic Abuse Services for its capital fund drive.

1996 – The “Build A Dream Fund” was established for a community playground at Menominee Park; your Community Foundation contributed $50,000.

1998 – $250,000 was granted to (former) Mercy Medical Center for its capital campaign.

1998 – The Women’s Fund of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation was created.

January 1999 – Eileen Connelly-Keesler became the Foundation’s second executive director.

1999 – $3 million was granted to the Oshkosh YMCA for its capital campaign to build a second location on the westside of Oshkosh (pictured at right).

2000 – The Oshkosh Community Foundation became the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation to better reflect the communities that we serve.

2000 – Service boundaries of the Foundation changed to include Winnebago, Green Lake, and Waushara counties, in addition to the city of Ripon.

2000 – The Green Lake/Ripon Community Foundation was created.

2002 – $250,000 was granted for Oshkosh Area Humane Society capital campaign.

2003 – $500,000 was granted to Paine Art Center and Gardens for its capital campaign.

2005 – $300,000 was granted to the Paine Art Center and Gardens for its capital campaign.

2005 – Your Community Foundation raised $7 million to construct Pollock Community Water Park (pictured at right).

2005 – A $150,000 match was granted for the creation of the Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh Teen Center.

2006 – $127,000 was granted to Park View Health Center for its capital campaign.

2007 – $10,000 was granted for construction of the Black Bear Exhibit at the Menominee Park and Zoo.

2007 – $120,000 was granted to assist Chamco Inc.’s revitalization of blighted areas.

2008 – $20,000 was granted for reconstruction of Red Arrow Skate Park.

2008 – $750,000 was granted to UW Oshkosh for its sports complex.

2009 – $100,000 was granted for reconstruction of downtown Oshkosh store facades.

2009 – $1 million was loaned for the renovation of Oshkosh Convention Center (pictured at right).

2009 – $18,000 was granted for start-up of the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry.

2009 – $30,000 was granted for Vision Oshkosh.

2010 – $33,000 was granted for Taking Root Beautification campaign, which continues to support initiatives throughout, Oshkosh, especially the planting and maintenance of trees.

2010 – $50,000 was granted for construction of the Grand Lounge within The Grand Oshkosh.

2010 – $75,000 was granted for the creation of Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.

2011 – $25,000 was granted for the start-up of the Day By Day Warming Shelter (now Day By Day Shelter).

2012 – $1 million was loaned for renovation of former City Center Hotel.

2012 – Your Community Foundation helped raise $273,000 for construction of the Otter Exhibit at Menominee Park and Zoo.


2012 – $100,000 was granted to Tri-County Dental Clinic for creation of a mobile dental clinic (pictured at right).

2012 – $50,000 was raised to install public access AEDs in Oshkosh.

2012 – $150,000 was granted to renovate the emergency shelter at Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services.

2012 – $125,000 was granted to build a new conservatory and renovate the Carriage House at the Paine Art Center and Gardens.

June 2013 – Diane Abraham became the Foundation’s third executive director.

2013 – The Winneconne Area Community Foundation was created,

2014 – $86,775 was granted to purchase the Oshkosh Police Department Command and Community Outreach Vehicle (CCOV), plus an additional $23,560 in 2015 to add a Telescoping Mast/Camera System (pictured at right).

2014 – Funds were established with the Oshkosh Public Library.

2015 – $1 million was granted to transform the downtown Oshkosh YMCA facility.

2015 – $50,000 was granted for an Inclusive Playground at South Park.

April 2016 – Bill Wyman became the Foundation’s fourth executive director.

2016 – $150,000.00 was granted to Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp. for the revitalization of depressed areas.

2016 – The Good Samaritan Fund was established.

August 2016 – Through funding from your Community Foundation, the City of Oshkosh installed four new “Welcome to Oshkosh” signs (Algoma Boulevard, Omro Road, Ninth Avenue and State 44, with a 5th planned near Jackson Street).

2017 – $300,000 was granted to start the Rise Up mental health program in the Oshkosh Area School District.

2017 – The Neenah Schools PBnJ Mental Health Fund was established.

2017 – The Highway 21 bridge crossing the Fox River was the last of three to be lit up as part of a community project dating back a decade. (The effort to light up the bridges was first started by former Sonex Aircraft CEO, Jeremy Monnett, who died in a plane crash in 2015. This latest lighting was done in his honor (pictured at right).


2018 – $30,000 was granted to the Princeton Public Library for its capital campaign.

2019 – $300,000 was granted to Habitat for Humanity Oshkosh & ReStore to launch Rock the Block.

2020 – The Oshkosh Parks Endowment Fund was established.

2020 – The COVID Relief Fund was established.

2020 – $247,000 was granted to pilot OmroNOW (Nurturing Omro’s Wellness) in the School District of Omro.

2020 – $257,000 was granted Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area to launch Teens 2 Work.

2021 – $1,108,900 in COVID relief was granted to area nonprofits.

2021 – $117,500 was granted to grow Waushara Shines‘s capacity to support the local recovery community.

April 2021 – The Oshkosh Area Community Foundation reached over $150 million in total assets ($151,946,347).

November 2021 – It was announced that your Community Foundation purchased a building on Father Carr’s Place 2B campus, for Appleton-based COTS Inc. to operate a transitional housing program (pictured at right).

2022 – Your Community Foundation led the Taking Root II campaign and raised over $300,000 to replace lost trees in Oshkosh due to the emerald ash borer.

2022 – $250,000 was granted to Lourdes Academy‘s One by One capital campaign for the new elementary school building.

2022 – $500,000 was granted to the Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh capital campaign to increase programming and community center space.

December 2022 – The Winneconne Area Community Foundation awarded $8,000 in education grants to the Winneconne Community School District through their Winneconne Education Grant Program.

2023 – $100,000 was granted for year-round operation of the Day By Day Shelter.

2023 – $250,000 was granted to build a new Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area in Ripon.

March 2023 – Our annual Celebrate Education event awarded more than $65,000 in grants to exceptional educators for innovative programs and projects in the classroom, on the field, and after school.

March 2023 – A grant from the Charles T. and Jean F. Gorham Fund at the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation supported the addition of Phoenix Charles to the Day By Day Shelter team as a service dog for the Day By Day clients (pictured at right).

2023 – Your Community Foundation awarded nearly $420,000 in scholarships to high school graduates and college students.